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All Points North #52: Political spin - who can say what in Finland?

Has political discourse become less straightforward, more discordant, and increasingly close to the limit of the law?

All Points North episode 52
Image: Lone Widestam
Talk is cheap, especially in politics -- or is it?
Image: Yle News
Yle News

When politicians use extreme rhetoric, it becomes normalised and can be experienced on the streets where it affects people's lives, says journalist and social commentator Aurora Lemma, who appeared on APN to discuss political discourse in Finland.

Tampere University senior media researcher Heikki Heikkilä agreed, saying that the groups affected by extreme language include people working with grassroots organisations as well as people with multicultural backgrounds.

The APN panel concurred that the media have an increasingly important role to play in helping audiences to parse political rhetoric. Heikkilä said that over the past decade many Finnish politicians have become rather proficient in the art of "spin" or propaganda, while Lemma noted that politicos are increasingly resorting to catch-phrases to mask xenophobia in language that seems neutral.

Heikkilä also pointed out that although there is a great deal of diversity among Finnish journalists, the media need to do more work to introduce more than two voices in a bid to providing balanced reporting.

Racism more an opinion than a fact

Both analysts noted that social media channels have made it difficult for traditional media to work in what he called a "hybrid media culture". He called on journalists to exercise caution using social media content as part of their reporting and to be self-critical and open up their editorial decision-making more to the public.

Heikkilä and Lemma noted that Finnish media tend not to call out racism in political discourse. Lemma said that it likely because in Finland, racism is seen as an opinion rather than an objective fact.

New Social Democratic MP Hussein al-Taee recently came under fire for controversial Facebook posts he had made several years ago about the situation in the Middle East, while several Finns Party members have been convicted for hate speech offences by Finnish courts - party chair Jussi Halla-aho included.

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The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.

This week's show was presented by Denise Wall and Mark B. Odom. The producer was Pamela Kaskinen and the sound engineer was Joonatan Kotila.

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